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Kanchayudha ‒ A Combat Game Set In Ancient Sri Lanka

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Andre Howson

Andre Howson

Staff Writer

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Sri Lanka’s digital gaming industry is not one that is very well known. They fly under the radar most of the time, not by choice, but because there are just so many international titles out there that competition is not just stiff, but almost as hard to crack as Wolverine’s skull. A digital game, once created, can be made available all over the world. Platforms like Steam just make this all the more easier. Steam has over 10,000 game titles available for its users, who in turn number in the millions: there were a 125 million registered Steam accounts last year. This doesn’t take into account the Playstations, Wiis, and Xboxes out there ‒ And we’re not even going to mention the number of mobile games that exist on iOS and Android.

Basically, there is a lot of competition.

That doesn’t mean Sri Lanka does not have its own game creators. There is a small community of game studios and they have come out with titles of an international standard. But to get a hold of the Sri Lankan market, you have to do something different, and that is what the design team behind the new combat game, Kanchayudha, is doing.

Back To The Past

Kanchayudha styles itself as Sri Lanka’s first ever “digital combat encounter”. It is not a one-on-one fighting game like Mortal Kombat, nor is it quite a role playing game. Instead, it combines a range of gaming features: a sort of combat mixed-action game driven by a storyline. While many games aim at being futuristic, Kanchayudha looks towards the past, setting itself in the period between 300 and 150 BC Sri Lanka.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta3GkrI989Y

 

As the team explains it:

“The game is based on historical characters around the period when King Elara was reigning in the Anuradhapura kingdom. In that period the Ruhunu kingdom was ruled by King Kavantissa and his heir was his elder son Prince Gamini (Gemunu). This game is designed as a fictional story based on the characters such as the famous ten giant warriors who are known for their heroism and devotion for their country in the historic literature and folklore.”

The characters in the game are folklore heroes, known for their special skills. The warrior Velusumanna, for example, was the most skilled mounted warrior in King Dutugemunu’s army, able to ride a horse that no one else could get near. Nandimithra, another character in the game, was the greatest mahout alive and also a master of Angam hand-to-hand combat. Queen Kathi was a fighter, proficient with both sword and shield.

The game is compelling because it is unabashedly Sri Lankan. From the title, to the characters, to the language (Sinhalese and Sanskrit with multilingual subtitle support), the game identifies strongly with Sri Lanka. This makes it stand out from all the other game titles out there.

The Creators

Nandimithra, one of the characters in the game.

Nandimithra, one of the characters in the game.

The entire game is conceptualised, designed and developed by the Arimac group of companies.  The character concepts, level designs, backgrounds, and 3D characters are being done by Axis Animations and the technical work is being done by IMI Labs, who do motion capture with locally manufactured equipment. Almost all the electronic equipment they use was built locally.

Altogether there are 25 talented people in the game design team who built the game up from scratch. Speaking to them we found that they were pretty much inspired to create this by seeing the passion people around them had for games.

“We once organised a creative stall in a recent exhibition as a shout out to Sri Lankan youth and we saw the passion and the excitement the fields of Gaming, VR, and AR had created in their hearts and minds. Before that we had sketchy plans on making a game, but now we have really scaled that idea. With that motivation we decided to take a step forward with the amazing talent we have. So we got together one night and discussed the feasibility and the ultimate decision was to go with this game idea,” said one of the team members, when contacted via email.

Challenges

But building the game was no easy task, especially in an environment that does not consider game design and development a legitimate career option.

“None of the Sri Lankans have jumped into the game development field as it was not an emerging field in the Sri Lankan market,” the team writes, adding,“But now competition is increasing with the development of higher level tools. We figured out that this is the optimum time to enter this industry. We’ve been doing mini games for the past few years but have never touched the big game field. So the hardest part is the risk that we are putting towards this. But we definitely have a massive motivation and passion through this, so we believe that we can overcome any upcoming difficulties.”

They feel that acceptance for Sri Lankan-built games is low, and the market fluctuates so much that it is hard to create an opening. But in their eyes, games are built for gamers so if they solely focus on reaching the Sri Lankan gamers out there, they can make an impact.

The Game

Right down to the weapons used, everything about this game keeps in line with an ancient Sri Lanka.

Right down to the weapons used, everything about this game keeps in line with an ancient Sri Lanka.

There was no external investor involvement in funding the game; instead, the teams involved grew it organically and invested themselves heavily into its design. Further down the line, they aim to get a strategic distribution and branding partner. They are also in talks with some international publishers to get their game distributed globally.

The game will be released on PC initially, since most Sri Lankans are PC gamers, though there are plans to release on PS4 and Xbox later on, if there is a demand. A VR version is also being looked at, since it is along Arimac’s lines of work.

The distribution is yet to be finalised, but the game will be on a subscription system and released in a series of 12 “episodes” (an interesting concept) at the rate of 1 new episode a month. Completing all 12 episodes will unlock a special weapon. The cost of the game, while not set yet, promises to be affordable. It will also accept various payment methods, such as credit cards and PayPal; alternatively, charges can be added to the bill of local telcos.

The game is to be officially announced on September 26 this year, which is also their 5th year anniversary. It will then be opened up to a closed group of beta testers. After a few months of the testing process, the first episode will be released publicly. We’re pretty excited to see what it will be like.

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